I have brought my breakfast and lunch to work with me every day for over two years. I have schlepped the giant satchel bursting with my belongings and all this food a nearly a mile each morning to the metro. Except for those blessed days when a friend took pity on my and let me ride shotgun back towards home, I have walked that almost-mile back to my decrepit Saturn each evening. That little car has ferried me into its 13th year, and it is still chugging along. I jury-rigged part of the bumper back on this weekend with wire. The nice fellow at the hardware store also made me two new keys because the old ones were so worn down, they had started falling out of the ignition while I was driving.
I refuse to waste the gas and pay to park on campus when the Commonwealth will pay for my metro expenses. Also, why shell out cash for a spot in the metro garage on this end when my legs work just fine? And this too: give me one good reason to trade in the old beater if she runs well enough to get Bug and me where we need to go. She still gets about 29 miles to the gallon, which isn’t half bad for a pre-hybrid plastic car.
Every day, $5 stays put in the wallet because of all that hoofing it. Every day, $10 is not spent on meals because I haul those clanking Pyrex containers to work. A little here, a little there. A few bucks saved by purchasing the new(ish) dress from the consignment shop instead of Macy’s. A few more saved by not purchasing the dress at all. Pennies in the piggy bank.
Don’t be fooled by my righteous claims. I am far from pure. I have blown more than you would think possible on curry and Red Zinfandel when out with the gals, and I have given over to my share of impulses when Bug is off traveling with his daddy. (Did someone say “spa day”?)
Still. Two years of living off the largesse of the folks, painting my own toenails, and making Halloween costumes by hand has paid off. I knew I was working towards something, but I didn’t know what.
Last night, I decided to pause and ask myself that exact question: What is all this for?
Last night, I decided to stop being scared of the answer.
I have been telling myself it will 2015 before I can afford a place for Bug and me. Rent prices in this area will take your breath away, and the best I can manage on my income might be a small studio in the outer reaches of Fairfax County.
Is this even accurate? From time to time, I skim the rental listings, but have I really considered buying? Now this is a stunning prospect. . .
Because what I want is a place for Bug and me. A little place, just the right size for us and close to his dad. One I can afford on my own. A place to land. A home.
Instead of getting worked up and worried about it, I stayed true to my Contract with Joy. I simply looked this possibility right in the face. What is the first step? Find out what sort of mortgage I can feasibly manage (easy enough with all the online calculators). Second, type in a zip code. Third, watch in wonder as the smorgasbord of listings within my price range appear before me. Fourth, gorge.
So, get this. All that scrimping and penny-pinching? I have actually managed to save enough for a down payment. A decent one. Not quite a 20% one, but within spitting distance of it. And you know what else? Mortgage payments are actually lower than rents on comparable places (duh). This means I can actually afford a two-bedroom condo in the astronomically expensive school district where Bug happens to be enrolled and still have a chunk of my monthly income left over for those little luxuries like groceries and heat. If I look outside his district, I could even afford a real honest-to-goodness townhouse, with a basement and a postage stamp yard and everything.
Who knew? Me! Little ol’ me, actually almost back on my feet!
So, I promise to make this fun. This is good news, not yet another reason to panic. Even though interest rates are at HISTORIC LOWS and housing prices have BOTTOMED OUT and NOW is the time to buy, I am in no hurry. Bug has had enough transitions for about the next three lifetimes, and I still have the pooch to consider, and I only just this week started clocking 7-8 hours of sleep a night after two years of insomnia. Maybe it’s better not to breeze past the lessons about the practices that brought me here: One small choice a day, one packed lunch, one listing, one minor act of courage. Each one accumulates. Pennies in the piggy bank.
Buying a home is a pretty big project. This is what I have heard, anyway. I’ve never done it before, so I’ll just have to find out for myself.